Arizona is dealing with a rise in cases and hospitalizations as part of a new COVID-19 wave, straining Arizona’s health system. The situation is worsening both statewide and nationally, even as pharmaceutical companies prepare to make the first doses of vaccine available after successful clinical trials.
Notable stories on Monday:
Follow coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic by Republic and USA Today Network reporters here.
Scott Menzel, the superintendent of the Scottsdale Unified School District, issued a letter to families on Monday that Arcadia High School, Chaparral High School and Desert Mountain High School would return to online-only learning for the rest of the semester as COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the country and state.
Menzel said he consulted with the Maricopa County Department of Public Health and concluded that returning to online learning was the safest option.
The transition to online-only learning is scheduled to begin on Tuesday. All three schools had been closed Monday due to a lack of staffing.
“This was not an easy decision, but it is one that was made following the guidelines established by the Governing Board regarding determining potential return to online learning on a school-by-school basis in consultation with public health officials,” Menzel wrote.
“It is our hope that this will also result in freeing up enough substitute teachers to cover other buildings and allow the District to continue offering in-person instruction through the end of the semester.”
Menzel added that special education programs at the affected high schools would remain in-person. He also said Cocopah and Mountainside middle schools will reopen for in-person learning on Tuesday.
— Perry Vandell
A team of university researchers says a statewide shelter-in-place order could help avert a “catastrophe” in Arizona hospitals.
In a memo to the Arizona Department of Health Services dated Friday, members of the University of Arizona’s COVID-19 modeling team say the state is heading toward a crisis in its hospitals.
Among the team’s recommendations is a shelter-in-place order that would include closing indoor dining and bars. Such an order could hold the limit of new cases below 6,200 cases per day, which is twice the current rate, the memo says.
The UA memo says that without additional public health interventions, Arizona “risks a catastrophe on a scale of the worst natural disaster the state has ever experienced. It would be akin to facing a major forest fire without evacuation orders.”
If no additional mitigation interventions are taken, the memo says, “hospitals will be forced to decide who gets care and who does not. Importantly, this will impact all Arizonans not just those with Covid-19 disease.”
— Stephanie Innes
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero called an emergency press conference on Monday afternoon to propose COVID-19 mitigation strategies for Pima County.
“Our nation is experiencing a public health crisis as COVID-19 cases continue to grow at increasingly alarming rates, there have been 40,000 cases reported with 700 dead” in Pima County, Romero said.
Additionally, Dr. Joe Gerald with the University of Arizona said local hospitals are at 90% capacity.
Pima County recently saw over 800 new COVID-19 cases in a day, which is the highest daily number reported since March, Romero said.
In response to the spread of COVID-19 Romero called for an emergency meeting of the city council at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The mayor also asked for Gov. Doug Ducey to enact a statewide mask mandate and an 8 p.m. curfew. She said she asked to speak with Ducey but he declined, and that the two have not spoken since March.
Arizona is one of 13 states that doesn’t have a statewide mask mandate in place, according to the American Association of Retired People.
“I hope that this curfew will help prevent future stay at home orders and lockdowns and help preserve precious hospital space,” Romero said.
— Brooke Newman
Arizona reported about 820 new COVID-19 cases and five new known deaths on Monday, while the number of patients hospitalized for the disease continued to rise to its highest level since the state’s summer surge.
The number of patients hospitalized statewide for known or suspected COVID-19 cases was at 2,513 on Sunday, the highest number reported since July 27. At the peak of Arizona’s surge in July, the number of hospitalized patients suspected or confirmed to have the virus exceeded 3,000.
The number of patients with suspected or known COVID-19 in intensive care units across Arizona was at 579 on Sunday, which was the most ICU beds in use in a single day since Aug. 5. The level is below what it was in July, when ICU beds in use for COVID-19 reached 970.
The relatively low number of cases reported to the state likely was a result of the long holiday weekend.
— Alison Steinbach
The Scottsdale Unified School District closed five middle and high schools Monday because of a lack of staffing, according to a letter Superintendent Scott Menzel sent to families Sunday.
Arcadia High School, Chaparral High School, Desert Mountain High School, Cocopah Middle School and Mountainside Middle School are closed for one day, the letter said. The lost day will likely be added to the end of the school year.
The closures are not the result of any known COVID outbreaks, Menzel said.
He also reiterated a request that any students who traveled over the Thanksgiving break or spent time in person with people outside of their immediate family quarantine at home and do remote learning for two weeks.
— Kaila White
Biotech company Moderna will apply for an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after receiving more good news about the safety and effectiveness of its candidate COVID-19 vaccine.
Moderna will be the second vaccine maker to request authorization from the federal government after similarly positive results for Pfizer and its German collaborator BioNTech’s candidate vaccine.
Moderna’s latest findings, according to a company news release, showed that of 196 people in the clinical trial who caught COVID-19, 185 of them had received the placebo, while only 11 received the active vaccine. That works out to an effectiveness rate above 94%.
— Karen Weintraub, USA Today